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The Boathouse District along the Oklahoma River continues to develop



Life happens quickly on the Oklahoma River. With about three months until the completion of the Devon Boathouse in October, the Boathouse District got vertical last week as the first pieces of Chesapeake's Finish Line Tower went skyward.

The tower, which was designed by Elliott + Associates Architects, was built in honor of Chesapeake Energy's 20th anniversary in 2009.

"You sometimes get presents on your birthday, but we thought we should give a present," said Chesapeake's Martha Burger. "This is kind of our gift to Oklahoma City to memorialize our 20 years in business."

When finished, the tower will be 60 feet tall and clearly visible from Interstate 35. The 7,500-square-foot building will be covered in white metal panels with glass that will provide a panoramic view.

The tower has four levels: level one is for race organization, visitors and technology; level two is for finish-line jury and timing seats; level three is for commentary and media; and level four is the VIP reception area and observation deck.

Rand Elliott, president of Elliott + Associates, said anytime a building goes up along the river, it further cements the notion that Oklahoma City isn't messing around.

"When you get to build something, it's a sign of optimism," he said. "It's so exciting to see the river and all the things going on here continuing, and we think the Finish Line Tower will be the crown jewel of the river as it goes up."

Besides the tower, many renovations have been made or are currently ongoing along the river, according to Mike Knopp, executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation.

"The Devon Boathouse is well under way, and the glass is being installed next week," Knopp said. "We also have the indoor rowing propulsion tank, and they have water in it now, and we are going to be testing that in September. But really, everything is coming together, and it's really quite the sight on the river right now."

He said shoreline improvements have been remarkable. After the city came in and cleared away most of the refuse, a boardwalk-type lane was created that runs from the Chesapeake Boathouse under the Lincoln Bridge, down to the water and along the site of future boathouses.

At this time, plans for two more boathouses are already in place for the University of Central Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma.

Elliott said the plan for the look and feel of the Boathouse District will be as if the boathouses themselves are in a race.

"It has that kind of quality to it," he said. "There will be similar architectural elements from building to building, yet there will be some things that will make them different. It really is designed for the spirit of the race and the spirit of the racing shells themselves."

Knopp said that with the rapid development of the Boathouse District, Oklahoma City is catching the eye of other aquatic sport communities.

"I get a lot of inquiries from other cities and city leaders who are very curious with what we are doing, and I think that we have certainly surprised a lot of people in the rowing communities who are really looking at Oklahoma City with a little bit on envy," he said. "I think it's just great for the sport in general, and to help inspire other places to continue to develop the sport. No one is going to do or be able to do what we are doing, and we are going to create a real mecca for the sport in the center of the country."

photo This aerial photograph shows the Chesapeake Boathouse left and Devon Boathouse right on the Oklahoma River. Photo/Shannon Cornman


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